No Time to Blog? Watch Less TV!

Clay Shirky, adjunct professor at NYU and author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations recently gave a talk at a Web 2.0 conference about the participatory internet being the new outlet for the cognitive surplus Americans spend mindlessly consuming sitcoms. Shirky's pretty cool, has some interesting things to say, and I thought I would share the talk with you. It's about 16 minutes long, and gives some good reasons behind the rise in creative collaboration.


A few films for thought...

Keith Hughes, a social studies teacher at McKinley High School and adjunct professor at UB, shared this film one of his grad students made. It is a humorous look at the differences between Buffalo and Cleveland. If you have time check it out.

On a similar note, if you have a few minutes, my father made a two part movie about the family dog. My dad is in no way affiliated with the WNYWP, but I thought his film was pretty touching. Blitzer is about 12 years old and, unfortunately, quickly approaching death. He's blind and can't run as fast anymore, so my dad brought the video camera along for a walk around Cazenovia Golf Course. It's a walk they've done 2-3 times a week since Blitzer was a puppy, and my father narrates his walk with stories of their time together. It's sad and cathartic and, essentially, the reason we all write. So, if you have a chance, go on over and take a look. The films should be the two most recent posts titled "Caz Park" and "Part Deux Caz Park."

WNWYP Teen Writer at Sheas!

Meredith Jones, an amazing writer from Hamburg who has been a repeat participant in our Teen Writing Camps, won a competition to have an original one act play performed at Shea's. This Sunday her play, "Being What We Are," a telling of the story Leo Frank, will be performed at 3pm. Hey, if you got the time, are looking for a cheap matinee date, love theater, or whatever, stop on down and support one of the finest writers we've seen...well...since we started running the camps.


Saturdays At 10 - May Edition

In a few Saturdays, we will reconvene at Canisius for our rescheduled program entitled "Technology in the Classroom." Find the flyer here. Here's the program description:

Saturday, May 10, 2008
10am – Noon
Free and Open to the Public

Joel Malley will lead the program with WNYWP fellows who will demonstrate how they integrate various technologies with writing in their classrooms.

Technologies that will be demonstrated
Digital Video
Power Point
And much more

Where: Canisius College, Old Main Room 214

Refreshments will be served

To reserve your seat contact: Rosemary Evans @ the WNYWP Office 888-3134 or evansr@canisius.edu

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the flyer is the embedded picture representing technology. What is that, an Apple IIe? Hope to see everyone there, and make sure to bring your floppy disks and the printer paper with the detachable strips with perforated holes on each side. We're going to be playing Oregon Trail and may even make banners!


Regents Learning Standards Review Initiative

Apparently, NYSED is crisscrossing NY gathering suggestions for revamping the NYS ELA standards. Their first meeting was held on Thursday at BOCES over on Harlem Road.

I was about twenty minutes late (had to stop home to check email for any responses to my mass call for suggestions and then had to get gas), so I missed the opening statements by Robert Bennett and Donald Ogilvie.

The meeting was populated by English and ESL teachers and administrators from acros Western New York. Essentially, tables were asked to address the following three major areas and report back to the larger group after one hour (Taken from "Standards Review Initiative Public Forum Discussion Group Assignments"):
  1. ELA/ESL Standards Content and Substance. Considering the content and substance of the Standards and Performance Indicators, what do you recommend be kept? What do you recommend be dropped? What do you fell is missing? What needs to be updated and/or revised
  2. Organization and Format of the ELA/ESL Standards. Is the organization/format of the current Standards and Performance Indicators easy to understand by teachers and others? Does the current format and organization promote engagement by teachers and does this format make the Standards easily "usable" by students? What organization and format would you recommend be considered?
  3. Are the ELA/ESL Standards Measurable? How do you fell about the current ability of these Standards and Performance Indicators to be properly measured? Can student understanding or proficiency be measured through multiple assessment approaches? In your discussion, please address measurability of the Standards through local assessment measures, state assessments and classroom methods (observation, portfolio evaluation, etc.)
I tried to quickly jot down the recommendations of each table, so here goes (note: some are standards related, some are soapbox related):
  • there should be a prerecorded listening passage from the state to ensure consistency and fairness on the first task of the 11th grade Regents
  • we should be integrating art instruction into ELA...(?)
  • Abandon the exam altogether for portfolio assessment (combination of a few tables)
    • the test is not process oriented, and that should be a 12 hour test. Everything we teach about writing must be thrown out the window to write under extreme timed conditions..."test of endurance more than skill"
    • adopt an authentic, growth model of assessment
      • especially for ESL and IEP kids...
  • universal literacy indicators (mic from the other room cut out for that one...not too sure what they were talking about)
  • ELA standards should be integrated into all content areas (echoed by two others...not too sure what that had to do with the question...maybe frustration over feeling responsible for having to teach writing for all content areas?)
  • Increased specificity regarding year to year progression, benchmarks, etc. One table said, to great applause, that the standards are hard to read and a more user friendly matrices showing introduction, proficiency, and mastery of individual PI's and literacy competencies would be...appreciated. Also, track kids year to year based on these matrices
  • More tech - reflect the real world. Get rid of handwriting and institute keyboarding early on (hallelujah), ditch friendly letter and work on email, etc. Integrate digital text/multimedia composition
  • Less PI's
  • Literacy Competencies to help guide 9-12, as they cut off after 8th grade
  • tasks should match the standards
I think I hit all the major points. BOCES had password protected Wifi, so I couldn't live blog it, and it's been more than 24 hours so a few points are a little murkier than when they were first delivered.

One more important note. They also attached a sheet titled "Standards Review Working Principles" Here's the text (man I wish my scanner was hooked up, lol).

Through this comprehensive standards review initiative, we will:

1. Include three levels of standards:
a. Student standards (content)
b. Teacher standards; and
c. System standards (infrastructure)

2. Develop a single set of standards for each content area, although some students may need different levels of support or scaffolding to achieve the learning outcomes (e.g. struggling learners, English language learners, students with disabilities).

3. Infuse literacy throughout all the content areas.

4. Infuse cultural competence throughout all the content areas.

5. Develop the measurable standards.

6. Review PreK-12 standards within the context of a seamless p-16 continuum.

7. Integrate technology throughout all the content areas.
So, I don't know, what do you think? Anything noteworthy here, or more of the same?

Growing Nationwide, Writing Problem

It's about, time, that someone, called attention to this, problem. It's sheer, pervasivenss, is vexing, and quite, frankly, distracting.


NYS Learning Standards

Esteemed colleagues,

On Thursday, I have the opportunity to go over to the Erie 1 BOCES for a town meeting of sorts. Bob Bennett will be there along with other members of the State Education Department, and they will be gathering ideas as they start the process of reviewing the ELA standards. So, as there are quite a few English teachers who are WNYWP fellows, I thought I'd solicit some ideas. Undoubtedly, I'll see some of you there.
What improvements would you like to see in the ELA standards? What gets too much attention? What gets too little? What is outdated? What needs updating?
Please add your thoughts in the comment section of this post.

- Joel


WNY Writing Project Goes to Washington

It's taken me awhile to post this, but here it is -- the WNYWP under the guise of Jessica, Suzanne, and husband Carl as the official photographer, successfully lobbied in Washington DC for National Writing Project funds. April 3 was a beautiful spring day in DC with the cherry blossoms in bloom and happy tourists snapping pictures. (Carl snapped a few for us too.) It was a stark contrast to the armed guards lining the streets and securing every entrance to the buildings that represent freedom.

However, we did experience the democratic process first hand. We met with Senator Clinton's and Senator Schumer's education aides. We missed meeting with Congresswoman Slaughter by one day, but we did talk with her aide. Best of all, we met with Congressman Brian Higgins, who purposely delayed his own travel schedule so that he could speak to us, however briefly. We had a lengthy discussion with his education aide and were treated to a personal tour of the Capitol building by a staff member.

And with that, despite the swollen feet and sore leg muscles, we felt welcomed, valued and a part of the process.




A cool little blog came to my attention via the Time Magazine first annual Blog Index. This site, Indexed, is the creative venture of Jessica Hagy. She creates an Venn Diagram or chart every day in order to "make fun of some things and sense of others...[and] to think a little more relationally without resorting to doing actual math." This is a cool little site, and as there is only one diagram a day it makes for a tasty, quick read.

This seems like a fun, yet thematically fun activity which could be useful in most classroom content areas. Since I'm an English teacher, here's my attempt (made with Skitch, the awesomest[sic] and easiest to use drawing, screen capturing, and sharing tool around):



April 19th Saturdays at 10

Heather Waldron did an internship at Nanci Atwell's Center for Teaching and Learning. On April 19th she'll share about her experience (and make us even more jealous, lol).

Congrats Krista!

Please join me in congratulating Krista Kieser, (2000 Fellow).
Krista has been invited to participate in an NEH Summer Seminar. She'll be studying poetry for 3 weeks at Harvard this July. This is quite an honor since only 15 people from across the U.S. were chosen to participate in this seminar.
Congratulations! Krista.



Not On the Test

Found this linked on a discussion at We-blogged. Here's Tom Chapin's site. Hee hee.

Chapin shares this on his website:

Why this song?

As a kid who grew up in NYC, I am a great fan of America’s public education. I attended P.S. 46 in Greenwich Village, then P. S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights, then on to Brooklyn Technical High School and S.U.N.Y. Plattsburgh.

And now, as a father and a grandfather, I so appreciate the tough job that faces every teacher. I believe they need all the help they can get: anything that excites a student, opens their eyes, and hearts and minds is a positive that makes a child invest in school.

Music, art, drama and sports - these are what kept me involved when I was in school. And these very things, that make a teacher’s (and student’s) job easier and more rewarding, are what’s been cut from curriculums across the country.

Now we are teaching by rote again - where the test, and only the test, becomes the reason to teach and study.

It’s no secret that American industry has outsourced most factory jobs to other countries to take advantage of cheaper labor costs. So why are we putting so much effort into a form of education in which there is no creativity? This is the time that our youth should be taught to think ”out of the box,” not be put into a tighter one!

This is the larger context that John Forster and I wanted to address in a satirical song for NPR’s “Morning Edition.”


25% of Nation's 12th Graders Proficient Writers

This from an article from today's New York Times. It reminded me of the conversation in another discussion about the nation's overall writing ability.

“Overall, American students’ writing skills are deteriorating,” said Will Fitzhugh, the founder of Concord Review, a journal published in Massachusetts that features history research papers written by high school students. He expressed skepticism that the national assessment accurately measured students’ overall writing skills because, he said, it only tests their ability to write very brief essays jotted out in half an hour...Mr. Fitzhugh cited findings of a 2006 survey of college professors, in which a large majority said they thought most high school graduates came to college with limited writing skills.

I'm not familiar with Fitzhugh or the the Concord Review, but this again raises some very important questions. In your opinion, are writing skills deteriorating? In what ways? Is there there is enough (or any)communication between college professors and high school teachers? Between businesses and high school teachers? How can improvement be made?